620 Bus to Tsawassen and Night Paving were written a few years ago before we started looking through the Covid-19 lens. 620 Bus … (a ride familiar to me on my day-trips to Vancouover) talks about a landscape in transition from fertile delta farmland to suburban sprawl and the islands of anonymity represented by the passengers aboard the bus. The point of view of Night Paving is that of a passive poet being chauffeured by a “that’s how it is, Bub” spouse. Today, if you can even get on a bus, you ae unlikely to “zone out” or daydream while idly gazing out the windows, and your attention is divided between the existential dangers of climate change and those of widespread pandemics.
620 Bus to Tsawassen
Concrete cliffs of the casino
And a poster of two young women
holding the lucky cards and having a good, good time
somewhere in that plushy cavern.
We’re moving with the flood on a low-tide beach
Where the flow of paving trickles westward on the Delta
in tongues and pools, pushing the wrack before it.
Dry grass waves on a gentle slope
invites the pleasure of exertion
and the odours of high summer
in the few steps between the highway’s edge
and the curbside of the overpass.
Sedges on the near side of the ditch,
blackberries and scrub trees on the far.
Frogs live here.
Glint of sky in the water,
bulrushes nod and wave.
Chevrolet Certified Service,
Across a weedy field, a man in a white T-shirt
waves a blackberry frond.
The road dips, the traffic roars,
Headlights sweep by on the left side.
Above the tunnel, salmon struggle homewards.
The river, feeling the pulse of tides,
Yields its burden to the sea.
Beyond the tunnel, there are boats bobbing in the slough,
patient for their weekend sailors.
Old cottonwoods doze easy in the richness of the river clay
that excavators on the building lot nearby
scoop, load and haul away.
Macdonald’s parking lot in Ladner
Is edged by clipped and browning bushes,
An old man with cane and turban stares,
Another transplant whose roots may never take.
Aboard the bus, a dad with squirming kids.
An Amy Winehouse look-alike,
Cleopatra with a nose ring,
sitting blankly with her guy.
Others poke away at their devices;
My bench-mate lady sleeps.
A woman sobs into her cell phone.
She is leaving someone.
I try not to hear but wonder
if her anguish is so sharp and real
it anchors her and those to whom she speaks
to a day they will remember.
roadside sign flashes by.
“Juicy poem in there!” says I.
“Come on!” my woman at the wheel,
“It bothers fewer folks at night.”
And though sun twinkles on Elk Lake,
I see the midnight highway,
machines and rapid flashing light,
the burly men in glowing sashes,
white faces in the headlight slashes,
and breathe the scent of tar.
I speak of evening thickly pouring in
when some rough broom sweeps light
off the western edge to fall
forever but for a spindly thread so thin
it just suffices to recall
Sun back to melt the night.
“That’s not how it goes, you dreamy pout.”
says my woman, switching lanes,
“We keep on spinning in and out.”
But treads on the tires say “Light,light, dark!
ten thousand times before we park.
“No,” I say, “the poem’s not just there,
there’s story farther north somewhere.”
Wheels lurching over broken ground
bearing loads of ancient paving
gouged from its grave in mound on mound,.
machines that groan but never tire
served by men that cycle through
rechargeable until their fire
draws low and burned-out they withdraw
to pensions minimized by law.
Regardless of the spin and circling
that marks our time in measured seasons
somewhere wealthy men find reasons
they claim essential to our nation
to accelerate this exhumation,
enough to pave our valleys into sluices.
Thick black juices
threaten innocence of streams.
assured mishaps befoul the ocean floor.
These are not the fumes of dreams
and there’s much more.
We’ve arrived – I can’t remember where.
My woman parks the car.
“Hey Bud, you gotta know
this car don’t run on grass or snow.
I’m keeping up with traffic’s flow,
so please no raving, no hot air.
when tires grow bare,
change them lest they pop.
when the road ends,
and your money’s no good,